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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Particular occupations: entertainment industry - musicians - orchestral players

General guidance about the status of musicians is at ESM4121.

It should, however, be noted that some musicians for whom the special NICs rules for entertainers applied were liable for Class 1 NICs between 17 July 1998 and 5 April 2014. However, because of their particular contractual arrangements, Session Musicians and their deputies are normally self-employed and not subject to the special NICs treatment at ESM4145.

Reserved self-employed status (see ESM4122) may be available to a musician engaged under a contract of employment where the necessary conditions are met. These are explained in the concession itself.

The status of orchestral players can give rise to problems because of the variety of contracts and circumstances under which they are engaged. The main situations are as follows:

  1. Musicians engaged to play at musicals, pantomimes and other theatrical performances are covered by the guidance at ESM4121.
  2. Musicians engaged under ‘first call’ or ‘guarantee’ contracts are self-employed for tax purposes but the majority will be subject to the special NICs treatment at ESM4147. These are contracts which
* give the orchestra the right to call on their services, but
* limit this demand so that they may undertake other work, and
* pay them separately for each performance.
  1. Musicians who are shareholders in the major London Orchestras (London Philharmonic, London Symphony, New Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic) are self-employed. The members run these orchestras themselves.
  2. Generally, orchestral players who are paid separately for each performance and are not guaranteed a minimum amount of work by an orchestra may be treated as self-employed.

Musicians who are not within b. - d. above and are permanent members of major orchestras are generally chargeable to tax under the employment income rules with Class 1 NICs liability.